My Facebook decade

Tuesday, September 6, 2016
Today marks the 10-year anniversary of my membership in Facebook.

I joined Sept. 6, 2006, shortly after Facebook allowed those with college alumni email addresses to join, and a few weeks before it opened the gates to anyone with a valid email address …
Confirmation email from Facebook

… although as best I can tell, I didn't post anything for the first several months -- until this:
My first Facebook post

So odds are good I've been at this longer than you, as indicated by this 2013 chart of Facebook's monthly user growth.
(Source: Facebook)

A few thoughts to mark the occasion:

* Fears of a "filter bubble" — in which humans wind up exposed only to an unchallenging selection of news from friends — have been greatly exaggerated. Anyone who's been surprised to learn through Facebook that a dear friend is backing Donald Trump — or Hillary Clinton — can attest to the highly porous (even imaginary) nature of that bubble.

* Facebook's exposed the dark side of humanity. More than almost any other manifestation of the digital world, it's gone a long way toward fulfilling the centuries-old dream of a "marketplace of ideas." That some of those ideas are noxious should be no surprise. Their expression isn't a sign of society's decay; the world's not worse today because of Facebook. We're just now better able to see how hard we have to work to make things better.

* Facebook is fun. People whose counterparts in the last century might've spent an hour a night on the phone with a handful of friends or relatives occasionally tell me they feel guilty now spending roughly the same amount of time on Facebook keeping up with dozens of people. I cherish the many rewarding friendships I've created or deepened on Facebook. These are relationships that wouldn't — couldn't — have developed without Facebook. It's time well spent connecting and reconnecting with a much wider and more diverse group of friends than I'd have otherwise.

Facebook has fundamentally changed the journalist's role — in ways exemplified by the evolution of Meyerson dinner-table conversation over the years. Once upon a time, a bigshot radio reporter could amaze the family each evening with News of the World — because he had a Wire Machine at the office that told him things they couldn't know until they watched TV news or read the next day's newspaper. Now, more often than not, Mr. Bigshot's amazing tales get deflated with "I saw that on Facebook yesterday." Facebook is now everyone's wire machine. (That's not to say journalists are unnecessary. It just means fewer journalists can justify their existence by repackaging and retransmitting otherwise available facts. More than ever, they need to be the source of news — broadly defined now not just as new information, but also as the unique presentation and explanation of information old or new.)

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